Medicolegal Investigation of Political Killings in El Salvador
Thomsen, Jorgen L.
Lancet. 1989 Jun 17; 1(8651): 1377-1379.
An axiom of Thomas Hobbes states that "people are never more helpless than when the force meant to protect their rights turns against them." Hobbes' axiom holds true today, with Amnesty International reporting that hundreds of thousands have been murdered by their governments. This article examines the medicolegal aspects of an investigation into the deaths of two Salvadoran peasants who were reportedly tortured and executed by soldiers in February 1988. One of the authors, Thomsen, participated in the investigation as a court-ordered expert, and as a representative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of a Salvadoran legal aid organization. His necropsy findings are reported with observations and comments. The article concludes with suggestions for initiatives that might be undertaken by individual physicians and institutions to improve the quality and impartiality of medicolegal investigations into political killings. (KIE abstract)
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